Along with over 90 charities, campaigners, experts, health and children’s organisations, we have written to the PM, urging him to continue with plans to ban online adverts for unhealthy junk food. The letter, dated 1 April, is certainly no April Fools, and comes in response to reports that the Government may row back on their plans.
Back in 2019, the Obesity Health Alliance (OHA) published a report on the advertising of foods high in fat, salt and/or sugar (HFSS). It recommended banning online and television adverts for HFSS foods before 9pm.
Last year, Boris Johnson announced a new obesity plan, which adopted the OHA’s recommendation and aimed to implement it amongst other changes by the end of 2022. However, The Times has reported Number 10 are expected to abandon the online ban following research suggesting it ‘would cost businesses millions of pounds.’
This is particularly concerning, especially when considering the amount of advertising children are subjected to, and its contribution to widening health inequalities. Only last month, our friends at Bite Back 2030 found that young people in Britain are exposed to 500 junk food ads per second. Bite Back 2030 also found that those from the least affluent communities were targeted with more online adverts, and we know that children in deprived areas are twice as likely to be obese.
Signatories – including chef Jamie Oliver, TV doctor Chris van Tulleken, Cancer Research UK and the Royal College of Physicians – remind the PM that ‘now is the time for ambitious, world-leading policies that put health first and are not weakened by vested interests.’
The letter asks the Prime Minister to meet with the OHA so that young people can show him how much advertising they are subjected to, and to discuss ways to work together.